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23 Jun, 2008 12:17

Russia to invest billions into Chechen reconstruction

The Russian government is allocating up to $US 5 billion in the next four years to boost the development of its North Caucasian republic of Chechnya. Ministers have discussed the new programme at a meeting as it hopes to double employment and improve road

Speaking at the meeting, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the main difference from the previous plan implemented in 2002 “is that back then we had to construct the republic from scratch.”

He added: “The situation is different today. We are starting a systematic, complex development of this territory. In the next four years we are planning to create tens of thousands of new jobs, double production and develop social and transport infrastructure. Over 120 billion roubles is allocated to this.”

The main focus will be on infrastructure: the reconstruction of the airport in the capital Grozny, hospitals, roads – 80 % of which remain destroyed – universities and cultural venues.

Also, by 2012 the Chechen government plans to create 95,000 new jobs and build more housing. They also want to boost the republic’s industry and agriculture, as well its social sector.

They also are counting on a tenfold increase in private sector investment.

“It will be impossible to boost the Chechen economy without private investment. Federal budget allocations, although large, are less effective than private investment,” said Dmitry Kozak, Regional Development Minister.

However, the success of this plan will largely depend on whether the billions of roubles will be used effectively.

Since 1994 the southern Russian republic has been the epicentre of two anti-terrorism campaigns. Thousands of civilians fled Chechnya and the exact death toll from the conflict remains unknown.

The fight against the militants ended in 2004 and though a full recovery might take longer, there are numerous indications that life here has started to get back to normal.

Despite optimism and the obvious construction boom there is lots to be done as the republic's economy and infrastructure have virtually been destroyed.

Between 2002 and 2006 the federal government invested $US 1.3 billion in reconstruction. It did little to help curb the republic’s staggering unemployment rate, estimated to be at least 67 per cent.

Ombudsman of the Chechen Republic, Nurdi Nukhadzhiev said: “The most dangerous threat unemployment poses is that young people can be easily recruited into terrorist groups. And unfortunately it often happens, despite many efforts to prevent it, including the special presidential programme on moral education and raising ethical awareness.”

The war’s aftermath is still apparent, as thousands of civilians are still missing, and 3,000 bodies in dozens of mass graves have yet to be idenitified. 

But Chechen authorities say they know how to make a difference in the republic. President Ramzan Kadyrov said: “We are a religious people. All's up to God. We must forget the past and build up our politics, economy, everything from scratch. We mustn't rebuild things, we must start everything anew.”